Another big employer in the Capital Region has decided to cut health benefits for retirees over the age of 65.
Bechtel Marine Propulsion Corporation, which runs the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory sites in Niskayuna and West Milton, and Bechtel Plant Machinery, Inc., which has operations in Schenectady, sent a letter to their Medicare-eligible retirees on Friday announcing that their company-paid retiree health plans had experienced large cost increases and a drop in enrollment.
“This prompted a review of the retiree benefit programs, and BMPC and BPMI determined that they will no longer offer medical plans to Medicare-eligible retirees and their Medicare-eligible dependents,” the letter said.
The two plans on the chopping block include the Medicare Supplement Plan, which provided medical and prescription drug benefits and was available to Medicare-eligible retirees of KAPL, and the Special Programs with Medicare, which paid 55 percent of prescription drug costs and $600 toward an inpatient hospital stay for Medicare-eligible retirees of BPMI in Schenectady and BMPC in Pennsylvania.
Ken Crotty, a former KAPL employee who spent 37 years with the nuclear research and development lab, is one of those retirees who contributed to the drop in enrollment a few years ago. The plans were just too expensive, he said.
“They wanted over $400 a month to cover me, but I found better coverage through MVP for $160 a month,” said Crotty, who lives in Charlton. “So when I got this letter I kind of shrugged my shoulders and thought, here they are doing the same thing as GE. They’re all copycatting each other. There’s absolutely no loyalty to their employees and former employees.”
General Electric eliminated its company-paid health coverage for former salaried employees over the age of 65, effective Jan. 1 of this year. It’s doing the same thing for former hourly production employees in 2016.
Both GE and Bechtel are offering retirees access to a private health exchange (One Exchange for GE, RightOpt for Bechtel) where retirees can choose from a range of plans from different insurance companies. GE offered to provide a $1,000 subsidy to help certain eligible retirees pay for the cost of their new premiums. Bechtel will be offering no such subsidy.
Retirees should expect to receive a letter in September from RightOpt informing them of how the service works, how to compare Medicare plans and what to expect next, should they choose to participate. An enrollment agent will be available to assist retirees.
The current company-paid retiree plans will expire Dec. 31.
Jack McCarthy, a KAPL retiree also from Charlton, said he had a hard time making sense of the letter when he first opened it. He put in 30 years with the company when it was still run by GE and took an early retirement at age 59 to take care of his quadriplegic wife. He’s 81 now, and gets the majority of his coverage through Medicare and the rest through Blue Cross Blue Shield.
“I don’t really know if this affects me,” he said. “It’s got me tied up with some questions I gotta get answered from Bechtel.”
Company officials did not respond to request for comment Tuesday.